How Do Scholars React To Allegations Of Genocide?


The undersigned American academicians who specialize in Turkish, Ottoman and Middle Eastern Studies are concerned that the current language embodied in House Joint Resolution 192 is misleading and/or inaccurate in several respects. Specifically, while fully supporting the concept of a "National Day of Remembrance of Man's Inhumanity to Man," we respectfully take exception to that portion of the text, which singles out for special recognition:

". . . the one and one half million people of Armenian ancestry who were victims of genocide perpetrated in Turkey between 1915 and 1923 . . .."

Our reservations focus on the use of the words "Turkey" and "genocide" and may be summarized as follows:

From the fourteenth century until 1922, the area currently known as Turkey, or more correctly, the Republic of Turkey, was part of the territory encompassing the multi-national, multi-religious state known as the Ottoman Empire. It is wrong to equate the Ottoman Empire with the Republic of Turkey in the same way that it is wrong to equate the Hapsburg Empire with the Republic of Austria. The Ottoman Empire, which was brought to an end in 1922, by the successful conclusion of the Turkish Revolution which established the present day Republic of Turkey in 1923, incorporated lands and people which today account for more than twenty-five distinct countries in Southeastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, only one of which is the Republic of Turkey. The Republic of Turkey bears no responsibility for any events which occurred in Ottoman times, yet by naming Turkey' in the Resolution, its authors have implicitly labeled it as guilty of "genocide" it charges transpired between 1915 and 1923; As for the charge of "genocide" no signatory of this statement wishes to minimize the scope of Armenian suffering.

We are likewise cognizant that it cannot be viewed as separate from the suffering experienced by the Muslim inhabitants of the region. The weight of evidence so far uncovered points in the direct of serious inter communal warfare (perpetrated by Muslim and Christian irregular forces), complicated by disease, famine, suffering and massacres in Anatolia and adjoining areas during the First World War. Indeed, throughout the years in question, the region was the scene of more or less continuous warfare, not unlike the tragedy which has gone on in Lebanon for the past decade. The resulting death toll among both Muslim and Christian communities of the region was immense. But much more remains to be discovered before historians will be able to sort out precisely responsibility between warring and innocent, and to identify the causes for the events which resulted in the death or removal of large numbers of the eastern Anatolian population, Christian and Muslim alike.

Statesmen and politicians make history, and scholars write it. For this process to work scholars must be given access to the written records of the statesmen and politicians of the past. To date, the relevant archives in the Soviet Union, Syria, Bulgaria and Turkey all remain, for the most part, closed to dispassionate historians. Until they become available, the history of the Ottoman Empire in the period encompassed by H.J. Res. 192 (1915-1923) cannot be adequately known.

We believe that the proper position for the United States Congress to take on this and related issues is to encourage full and open access to all historical archives and not to make charges on historical events before they are fully understood. Such charges as those contained H.J. Res. 192 would inevitably reflect unjustly upon the people of Turkey and perhaps set back progress irreparably. Historians are just now beginning to achieve in understanding these tragic events.

As the above comments illustrate, the history of the Ottoman-Armenians is much debated among scholars, many of whom do not agree with the historical assumptions embodied in the wording of H.J. Res. 192. By passing the resolution Congress will be attempting to determine by legislation which side of the historical question is correct. Such a resolution, based on historically questionable assumptions, can only damage the cause of honest historical inquiry, and damage the credibility of the American legislative process.


RIFAAT ABOU-EL-HAJ Professor of History California State University at Long Beach

SARAH MOMENT ATIS Professor of Turkish Language & Literature University of Wisconsin at Madison

KARL BARBIR Associate Professor of History Siena College (New York)

ILHAN BASGOZ Director of the Turkish Studies Program at the Department of Uralic & Altaic Studies Indiana University

DANIEL G. BATES Professor of Anthropology Hunter College, City University of New York

ULKU BATES Professor of Art History Hunter College City University of New York

GUSTAV BAYERLE Professor of Uralic & Altaic Studies Indiana University

ANDREAS G. E. BODROGLIGETTI Professor of Turkic & Iranian languages University of California at Los Angeles

KATHLEEN BURRILL Associate Professor of Turkish Studies Columbia University

RODERIC DAVISON Professor of History George Washington University

WALTER DENNY Associate Professor of Art History & Near Eastern Studies University of Massachusetts

DR. ALAN DUBEN Anthropologist, Researcher New York City

ELLEN ERVIN Research Assistant Professor of Turkish New York University

CAESAR FARAH Professor of Islamic & Middle Eastern History University of Minnesota

CARTER FINDLEY Associate Professor of History The Ohio State University

MICHAEL FINEFROCK, Professor of History College of Charleston

ALAN FISHER Professor of History Michigan State University

CORNELL FLEISCHER Assistant Professor of History Washington University (Missouri)

TIMOTHY CHILDS Professorial Lecturer at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University

SHAFIGA DAULET Associate Professor of Political Science University of Connecticut

JUSTIN MCCARTHY Associate Professor of History University of Louisville

JON MANDAVILLE Professor of the History of the Middle East Portland State University (Oregon)

RHOADS MURPHEY Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Languages & Cultures & History Columbia University

PIERRE OBERLING Professor of History Hunter College of the City University of New York

ROBERT OLSON Associate Professor of History University of Kentucky

DONALD QUATAERT Associate Professor of History University of Houston

WILLIAM GRISWOLD Professor of History Colorado State University

WILLIAM HICKMAN Associate Professor of Turkish University of California, Berkeley

JOHN HYMES Professor of History Glenville State College West Virginia

RALPH JAECKEL Visiting Assistant Professor of Turkish University of California at Los Angeles

JAMES KELLY Associate Professor of Turkish University of Utah

PETER GOLDEN Professor of History Rutgers University, Newark

TOM GOODRICH Professor of History Indiana University of Pennsylvania

ANDREW COULD Ph.D. in Ottoman History Flagstaff, Arizona

MICHAEL MEEKER Professor of Anthropology University of California at San Diego

THOMAS NAFF Professor of History & Director, Middle East Research Institute University of Pennsylvania

WILLIAM OCHSENWALD Associate Professor of History Virginia Polytechnic Institute

WILLIAM PEACHY Assistant Professor of the Judaic & Near Eastern Languages & Literatures The Ohio State University

HOWARD REED Professor of History University of Connecticut

TIBOR HALASI-KUN Professor Emeritus of Turkish Studies Columbia University

J. C. HUREWITZ Professor of Government Emeritus Former Director of the Middle East Institute (1971-1984) Columbia University

HALIL INALCIK University Professor of Ottoman History & Member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences University of Chicago

RONALD JENNINGS Associate Professor of History & Asian Studies University of Illinois

KERIM KEY Adjunct Professor Southeastern University Washington, D.C.

DANKWART RUSTOW Distinguished University Professor of Political Science City University Graduate School New York

STANFORD SHAW Professor of History University of California at Los Angele

METIN KUNT Professor of Ottoman History New York City

AVIGDOR LEVY Professor of History Brandeis University

DR. HEATH W. LOWRY Institute of Turkish Studies Inc. Washington, D.C.

JOHN MASSON SMITH, JR. Professor of History University of California at Berkeley

ROBERT STAAB Assistant Director of the Middle East Center University of Utah

JAMES STEWART-ROBINSON Professor of Turkish Studies University of Michigan

FRANK TACHAU Professor of Political Science University of Illinois at Chicago

DAVID THOMAS Associate Professor of History Rhode Island College

WARREN S. WALKER Home Professor of English & Director of the Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative Texas Tech University

WALTER WEIKER Professor of Political Science Rutgers University

MADELINE ZILFI Associate Professor of History University of Maryland

ELAINE SMITH Ph.D. in Turkish History Retired Foreign Service Officer Washington, D-C-EZEL

KURAL SHAW Associate Professor of History California State University, Northridge

FREDERICK LATIMER Associate Professor of History (Retired) University of Utah

BERNARD LEWIS Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern History Princeton University